This evaporated milk key lime pie is sweet and creamy with the perfect amount of tang. A toasted graham cracker crust is filled with a luscious, smooth key lime filling. It’s the perfect summer dessert, and no family celebration or outdoor BBQ is complete without this citrusy pie!
Can you make key lime pie with evaporated milk?
Yes! While traditional key lime pie is typically made with sweetened condensed milk, you can also make an outstanding key lime pie with evaporated milk.
If you desperately crave key lime pie but have only evaporated milk at hand, this is the recipe for you!
My evaporated milk key lime pie has the perfect balance of flavors and textures. The graham cracker crust is buttery and crispy, and the filling tastes sweet and rich with an incredible key lime flavor.
Evaporated milk perfectly complements the tanginess of the key lime while also amping up the dreamy creaminess of the pie filling.
You’ll be the star of the show when you turn up with this delicious key lime dessert! It’s so good!
Also, the pie recipe doesn’t take much time or effort to whip up. You’re looking at 20 minutes active prep time; the rest is just allowing the pie set. Not bad for an easy dessert, right?
You only need 6 ingredients to make this pie, and there is a good chance you already have most (if not all) of them at home. Please scroll down to the recipe card below to see the exact measurements.
- Graham cracker crumbs: Instead of buying ready-made crumbs, you can make your own by crushing sheets of graham crackers in a food processor, blender, or ziplock bag. Just make sure you don’t have any big pieces of graham crackers left.
- Butter: Melted butter ensures the crust sticks together. I usually use salted butter, but unsalted works just as well. We also add a little butter to the filling for richness.
- Evaporated milk makes the pie rich and creamy while keeping it also light and refreshing. It also has a mellow milky flavor that rounds out the sour taste of the limes.
- Key lime juice + zest infuse every bite of this pie with delicious lime flavor. If you’d rather not bother with squeezing out a bunch of tiny key limes, pick up a bottle of Nellie & Joe’s Key West lime juice.
- Granulated sugar sweetens both the crust and the key lime pie filling.
- Cornstarch is the thickener that helps the filling set. Feel free to substitute arrowroot or tapioca starch.
How to make key lime pie with evaporated milk
Making this comes down to 3 easy steps: making the crust, preparing the filling, and letting the pie set.
It’ll take you about 20 minutes to make both the crust and the filling. The longest part is that the pie needs a minimum of 5 hours to set in the fridge.
While it’s tempting to eat right away, it’s worth it to wait. Now let’s go over the recipe step by step!
#1: Make the crust
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the melted butter until well combined.
- Next, press the crumb mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie plate. You can do this with your fingertips, a large spoon, or the bottom of a measuring cup.
- Once the crust is pressed out, bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350°F. Then remove it from the oven and let it cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.
#2: Make the filling
- Whisk the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan until you no longer see clumps of cornstarch.
- Add the evaporated milk, lime juice, and lime zest and bring to a boil over medium heat., Continually stir the mixture to prevent anything from burning to the bottom of the pot. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken up.
- Once the filling has thickened, take it off the heat and stir in the butter. Then pour it into your cooled pre-baked pie crust. It’s fine if the filling doesn’t seem super thick at this point – it will thicken a lot more as it cools.
#3: Chill & garnish
- Let the pie cool down to room temperature, and refrigerate it until the filling sets, which will take several hours.
- At the very least, you should chill your pie for 5 to 6 hours. For the best results, refrigerate overnight.
- When the pie is set completely, garnish it with whipped cream, lime slices, and a sprinkle of lime zest. Enjoy!
Evaporated milk key lime pie is really straightforward to make, and here are a couple of ways to customize the recipe.
- Other citrus fruit: You can make this pie with any citrus fruit. Lemon, blood orange, grapefruit, and tangerine would be amazing.
- Different crust: Instead of graham crackers, make the crust with saltine crackers, golden Oreos, shortbread, or other wafer-type cookies.
- Vanilla: Vanilla and lime are a dreamy pairing. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste to the filling or scrape the seeds of 1 fresh vanilla bean.
- White chocolate: Add 1/2 cup chopped white chocolate as you heat the evaporated milk mixture for a lovely white chocolate flavor.
- Matcha powder: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons matcha powder to the key lime filling to give your pie a stunning green color. Look for ceremonial-grade matcha, which will result in a more vibrant color.
- Topping ideas: You have many options when decorating your pie, such as swirls of whipped cream, lime slices, lime zest, chopped pistachios, or raspberries. You can also top your evaporated milk key lime with Cool Whip, Reddi Whip, or a homemade meringue topping. Have a look at our key lime meringue pie recipe to learn how to make a fluffy meringue to garnish your pie.
Make ahead & storage tips
How to store key lime pie
If you plan to eat your pie throughout the week, keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. Alternatively, cover it with plastic wrap or tin foil if the pie is too big for an airtight container. It will be good for 4 to 5 days.
Make the pie ahead of time
This pie is a great make-ahead dessert because the pie has to chill anyway. You can make it 1 to 2 days in advance and store it covered in the fridge. Hold off on decorations until ready to serve so they look fresh.
Freeze evaporated key lime pie
If you want to freeze your evaporated milk lime pie, place it in a heavy-duty freezer bag or a freezer-friendly container.
If you freeze the pie, you want to enjoy it within 1 to 2 months for the best taste. It will be safe to eat for 3 to 4 months, but I found the texture changes slightly after 2 months.
When you’re ready to serve, make sure to thaw the pie in the fridge for a few hours before eating. It also tastes delicious semi-frozen on a hot summer day.
- 1 1/2 cups / 200 g / 7 oz graham cracker crumbs (approx. 11 full-sheet graham crackers)
- 1/4 cup / 50 g / 1.8 oz granulated (white) sugar
- 6 tbsp / 85 g / 3 oz salted butter, melted
- 3/4 cup / 150 g / 5.3 oz granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup + 3 tbsp / 60 g / 2 oz cornstarch
- 1 cup / 240 ml / 8 fl oz freshly squeezed lime juice (approx. 16-20 key limes or 8-10 regular limes)
- 2 tbsp grated lime zest
- 1 1/2 cups / 350 ml / 12 fl oz evaporated milk
- 4 tbsp / 60 g / 2 oz salted butter (or unsalted + pinch of salt)
- Preheat oven. First, preheat your oven to 350°F / 180°C / gas mark 4.
- Mix crumb mixture. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the melted butter until well combined.
- Fill pie dish. Next, press the crumb mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie plate. You can do this with your fingertips, a large spoon, or the bottom of a measuring cup.
- Bake crust. Once the crust is pressed out, bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes. Then remove it from the oven and let it cool at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Dissolve cornstarch. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan until you no longer see clumps of cornstarch.
- Cook filling. Add the evaporated milk, lime juice, and lime zest and bring to a boil over medium heat., Continually stir the mixture to prevent anything from burning to the bottom of the pot. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to thicken up.
- Pour into crust. Once the filling has thickened, take it off the heat and stir in the butter. Then pour it into your cooled pre-baked pie crust. It’s fine if the filling doesn’t seem super thick at this point – it will thicken a lot more as it cools.
- Chill pie. Let the pie cool down to room temperature, then refrigerate it until it sets, about 5 to 6 hours, preferably overnight.
- Serve. When the pie is set completely, garnish it with whipped cream, lime slices, and a sprinkle of lime zest. Cut into slices and enjoy!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 324Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 224mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 1gSugar: 24gProtein: 4g
Condensed milk vs. evaporated milk: What’s the difference?
As mentioned, classic key lime pie is often made with condensed milk, yet my recipe uses evaporated milk. So, what is the difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk?
Both are shelf-stable, concentrated milk products. They have been heated until at least 60 percent of their water content has evaporated.
The main difference between condensed milk and evaporated milk is that condensed milk is sweetened while evaporated milk is unsweetened.
They are not the same product and can’t be used interchangeably. If a recipe calls for condensed milk, you can’t simply swap in evaporated milk, but you need to make a few adjustments (like adding sugar or another sweetener).
What is the difference between key limes and regular limes?
Key Limes (also called Mexican or West Indian limes) are more aromatic than regular limes (Persian limes) and feature a lovely floral and tarter flavor. They are smaller in size and more yellow rather than green.
Key Limes used to be grown in the Florida Keys, hence their name. However, a hurricane in 1926 knocked out most of the groves. Today true Florida key limes are only available through a few farms in Dade County, Florida.
When are key limes in season?
Key limes are harvested in Florida from June through September, but some are available year-round, especially at places like Whole Foods.
Can I use regular limes to make this pie?
Sure! Persian limes are a good alternative if key limes aren’t available. The taste will be slightly different, but nonetheless delicious.
Reasons to love key lime pie with evaporated milk
It’s not hard to love this bright, creamy key lime pie. Here are some of my favorite things about this easy recipe:
- Light and refreshing: This pie practically tastes like summer. It’s wonderfully light and refreshing – just perfect for your next outdoor soiree.
- Perfectly balanced: The pie isn’t too sweet and not too tart. Of course, it has plenty of sweetness, but the tartness from the limes makes this a perfectly balanced dessert.
- Festive: This is the perfect pie for a spring or summertime celebration. It also makes an excellent dessert for Thanksgiving and other holidays.
Other evaporated milk recipes
I love cooking and baking with evaporated milk, and we have no shortage of evaporated milk recipes for you to try out. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Evaporated Milk Cake
- Evaporated Milk Fudge
- Chocolate Satin Pie
- Evaporated Milk Pumpkin Pie
- Sweet Potato Pie with Evaporated Milk
- Evaporated Milk Rice Pudding
- Evaporated Milk Hot Chocolate
- Cornbread with Evaporated Milk
More citrus pies
This key lime pie is pretty much as good as it gets, but here are a few more outstanding citrus pies for you to try. Happy baking!